5 Things Korea Has Taught Me

5 Things Korea Has Taught Me

I’ve been doing a lot of self reflection as I prepare for my last few months in Korea. Prior to moving here, I was dealing with an overwhelming amount of grief, confusion and instability. All in the span of six(ish) months, my brother and grandmother passed away, I ended an extremely toxic relationship and became unemployed. I was mentallly, physically and emotionally drained.

As one who generally chooses to keep my heart toward the sun, I used this newfound freedom and confusion as an opportunity to 1.) figure it out and 2.) chase a dream.

I remember it well: I was sitting on my couch in a meditation-like daze listening to Phantogram, one of my favorite bands, and suddenly thought, “Now is the time.” I picked up my laptop and began browsing Google for travel bloggers who had been living and working abroad. I spent hours re-living their magical moments through photographs and started getting butterflies in my stomach.

“I can do this,” I thought. So I did. 

Moving to Korea has completely and utterly turned me inside out, upside down and back around. It has encouraged me, strengthened me, made me cry and sent me to hysterics. I’ve had some incredible experiences and some downright horrible experiences in this country. Although sometimes I find it extremely difficult to live in Korea, it’s healed me in a way I never thought imaginable – for which I am grateful. Here are some of my favorite lessons learned along the way:

1. It’s Okay to Fail
I’m not sure if this counts as something I learned in the months leading up to Korea so much as I have here, but I think it’s worth a mention. One of the main reasons I consider failure to be so magnificent is because it teaches some of life’s most valuable lessons: gumption, humility and, in my case, strengthen’s one’s tenacity.

There have been plenty of moments where I’ve failed. Committing cultural faux-pas, making mistakes at work, mismanaging funds from time to time – the list goes on. But you know what? So does life! In the wise words of Jerry Garcia, “just keep truckin’ on.”

2. Self Love is Important
For most of my early adulthood, I had a hard time loving myself. I am my biggest critic and tend to be far too harsh. However, one day in Korea I looked in the mirror and decided to take life by the horns. I started being kinder to myself, which eventually led to me being a happier and healthier person. I’ve lost nearly 30 pounds and met the man of my dreams as a result!

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3. I Can Move Mountains
If I can overcome the pain I felt and open myself back up to all of these incredible experiences, I truly believe that I can do anything. I have amazed myself with my strength and courage, which are characteristics I never really credited myself for. I’ve traveled solo for the first time, attempted (and sort of failed) at learning the Korean language super well, and have followed through with my personal goals. I’ve regained my self confidence and feel [somewhat] in control of my life again.

4. Patience is Attainable
Since I can remember, I’ve always been keen to speak my mind. I am an extremely passionate woman and do not hold back when it comes to stating my opinion. While Korea certainly tends to bring out the absolute worst aspect of this trait, I have also learned that it’s sometimes best to just keep my mouth closed.

There are many aspects of Korean culture that absolutely drive me up a wall, but instead of letting it affect me, I’m trying to learn to just shut my mouth (it’s difficult) – even when everyone else around me is on a Korea rant themselves. I’m going to go ahead and consider myself to be getting wiser with age, which would explain the two new gray hairs I found recently.

I seriously thought my brain was going to explode when we started running a 5k earlier this year. Nobody else was running (because Korea.)

I seriously thought my brain was going to explode when we started running a 5k earlier this year and discovered it was really just a selfie party. Living in Seoul often feels akin to what I imagine living in Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World to be.

5. It’s Okay to Let Go
I still cannot get through a movie scene that includes several heroin references or shows individuals in comatose – and that’s totally okay. I can however, choose to accept that and move forward. I don’t feel as many extreme waves of sadness related to my past since I’ve learned to focus on my strengths and focus on the future. I feel as though I would not have been able to accomplish this goal  as successfully – or at all – had I stayed in America.

While far too often I’ve claimed this country to be an obnoxiously stressful place to live, it has ironically become a safe haven and a place that enabled me to grow. In my final months, I will refocus my energy on the overwhelming amount of positives that I can associate with living here rather than allow myself to get lost in the negativity. So, cheers to you Korea – thanks for the love!

Seoraksan, Korea.

Seoraksan, Korea.

“Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.”
― Cheryl Strayed, Wild

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20 Comments

  1. September 22, 2015 / 10:20 am

    Wow, those are some powerful lessons! I would love to visit Korea!

  2. September 22, 2015 / 12:30 pm

    Self-Love is SO important! You hit the nail right on the head, girlie!

  3. October 2, 2015 / 11:49 pm

    This is beautiful, hun. I always think that living in Korea has taught me nothing but, reading your post, I can see that there are much deeper ways to change.

    I’m so sorry for what you’ve gone through but I’m so glad you found somewhere where you could heal on your terms.

    I guess I want to ask what are you going to do after Korea? Where will you go? What’s the plan? But that’s not as important as living for right now.

    • lauranalin88@gmail.com
      October 6, 2015 / 4:21 pm

      Thanks! It’s been a learning experience for me, that’s for sure! I am heading out to backpack SE Asia starting next March with my boyfriend and then we will be living in New Zealand and see where life takes us from there. I’m looking forward to the change, though I’m already feeling anxious about leaving Korea.

  4. October 9, 2015 / 3:27 am

    All of your lessons are honest and true! Learning to fail and loving yourself are two of the most difficult things to do, but they are necessary to move forward. Congrats on your newly found confidence and keep on going!

  5. October 21, 2015 / 4:16 am

    Wow, so sorry to hear of your losses before your move to Korea. It sounds like you grew alot by living here. What’s funny is when we finished our first teaching contract we were so ready to peace out and leave Korea for good. What’s strange though is we found ourselves missing things about Korea a few months after we left…more and more we found ourselves seeing all the great things about living here rather than the negative (which is what we chose to focus on while living here) and what do you know? We are back for one last year of teaching. Anyways thanks for the personal and interesting read.

    • lauranalin88@gmail.com
      October 21, 2015 / 8:05 am

      Thanks for your insight! I try to focus on the positive as well – it’s much easier these days now that I’ve dug myself out of a rut that seemed never-ending. There are plenty of pros as well as cons no matter where one chooses to settle down. Korea’s been great for the past two years, but I’m ready to explore a bit more for now. Almost everyone I know misses Korea a bit once they leave, which is natural as we adapt to the culture and become accustomed to our new home, albeit temporary. I missed Chicago when I left and I’ll certainly miss Korea when I leave, too. I’m looking forward to making the best of the next 4.5 months but I’d be lying if I said I’m not looking forward to fresh air in New Zealand, though! =)

      • October 21, 2015 / 2:15 pm

        It’s really hard to think about the positives living here for a year with barely a long enough vacation to leave the country! It didn’t come easy for us until we left. There are so many things we miss about home too! Sadly it’s mostly food(and clean public bathrooms lol) Ah but you’re going to New Zealand! I’m so jealous! 😉

  6. October 23, 2015 / 12:12 am

    I love that you really shared this with us. I chuckled a couple of times about the frustrations you encountered were probably the same things I ran into. The fact that you are a verbal and usually speak your mind is another trait that I can totally relate. Out of respect, I have learned to keep a lot of things to myself.

    I have enjoyed my year and half in Korea and wish I had visited more places while I was there. It was a traumatic move for me and my family, but we adjusted and we love to travel and experience new cultures. I’m glad to hear that you have grown as a person during your stay in Korea. I have learned some of the same things you did while I was there. I could add a few more to that list since I moved with my husband and my 2 years old son. There are so much more to consider when moving overseas with a family rather than just worrying about yourself. Thanks for sharing this post.

  7. October 23, 2015 / 12:29 am

    This is an absolutely beautiful post, thank you very much for sharing! Its amazing to see how travel can impact others as deeply as it has impacted me. You are a very strong person and I’m so very glad to see that your time spent here has helped you heal and given you the strength to tackle your next adventures in life!

    PS, I LOVE the photos-especially the Garden of the Morning Calm-it’s at the top of my to-do list for the Spring! Best wishes in your future endeavours!!

  8. October 24, 2015 / 6:49 am

    Life is like that. Either you face it or it faces you. Whichever way, you need to keep moving. I am extremely glad to read this from you. Very thoughtful lessons. Personally, there is a personal creed that I keep murmuring to myself anytime I feel like the going is getting tough. And it is a hashtag; “#ItsPossible”.

  9. October 24, 2015 / 2:51 pm

    Love this list! I had similar experiences when I lived in China for a year and it’s continuing on ever since I moved to South Korea. I think moving abroad really opens yourself up and you get to know and appreciate yourself better! Thumbs up!

  10. October 25, 2015 / 11:53 pm

    This is a great ;list. No 2 & 3 I feel are especially important. Believe in yourself always and love yourself. I find no 2 to be particularly hard as women, and it takes a lot of mental power to remind ourselves of our value. Congrats on learning these things while in Korea. 🙂

  11. October 26, 2015 / 1:47 am

    Really powerful post, thanks for sharing! You sound like a very strong-minded person and it’s great to hear that you’ve learned and experienced so much in your time in Korea.

  12. October 26, 2015 / 1:43 pm

    If you were physically in front of me I’d give you a huge hug because I definitely feel you on so many of your points. I too am leaving Korea shortly and I’ve felt the same way as you. But I’ve recognized that I’ve chosen to grow in spite of being uncomfortable at times.
    “It’s okay to let go” was a good reminder, especially for such a time as this when I’ve been dealing with something difficult and I really should just let it go. Thanks for sharing your post. Your vulnerability is felt and appreciated.
    Cheers

  13. October 26, 2015 / 2:22 pm

    Congratulations on all of your success and newly enhanced life! It’s amazing to see people come to Korea and either struggle or thrive. It’s all about mindset and perspective and it looks like you have a great attitude that will surely take you a long way. Keep it up and spread the joy you’ve so obviously found.

  14. October 28, 2015 / 3:22 pm

    Hey great post! I can relate to a few of your points about living here. Personally I have been much more physically active and decided to focus more on my health and diet while living here. Also I come from a tiny French island called Saint-Pierre et Miquelon and feel like I have become much more open minded as a result of living in Korea, especially about not being afraid of trying new things! Glad to see living here has impacted you in such a positive manner!

  15. October 30, 2015 / 12:05 am

    It’s so interesting you think Korea is a difficult country to live in because I thought the same of Japan. There are way less foreigner friendly services in Japan and it is difficult to get by if you don’t know the language especially if you’re outside of a big city. It sounds like Korea has taught you a lot and I myself went through something similar before I moved to Japan. I’m looking forward to your new adventures in Japan.

    • lauranalin88@gmail.com
      October 30, 2015 / 12:17 am

      Thank you for the kind words, but I’m not moving to Japan nor will I be visiting anytime soon!

  16. November 2, 2015 / 2:49 pm

    Powerful observations that will stay with you throughout your life – and probably ones that you would have come to discover over time with South Korea giving you that added oomph to make you realise! Loving your tales from South Korea – a country I have not yet visited.

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